Bill Clinton: Defense Of Marriage Act That I Signed Is Unconstitutional : The Two-Way Times were different when he signed the law in 1996, the former president writes in The Washington Post. Today, he says, the act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman discriminates against same-sex couples who have become legally married.
NPR logo Bill Clinton: Defense Of Marriage Act That I Signed Is Unconstitutional

Bill Clinton: Defense Of Marriage Act That I Signed Is Unconstitutional

Times were different in 1996 when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, former President Bill Clinton writes in today's Washington Post.

"In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction," Clinton says. Supporters of the act that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, thought its passage would head off a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Former President Bill Clinton (and then-Vice President Al Gore) in 1996, the year Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Stephen Jaffe /Reuters /Landov hide caption

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Stephen Jaffe /Reuters /Landov

Former President Bill Clinton (and then-Vice President Al Gore) in 1996, the year Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act.

Stephen Jaffe /Reuters /Landov

But now, Clinton says, he believes DOMA is "incompatible with our Constitution." As the Supreme Court prepares to take up the act's constitutionality, he is making the case that it discriminates against "same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia [but] are denied the benefits of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples."

As NPR's Nina Totenberg has reported:

"The test case that the Supreme Court said it will review involves a New York couple, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who had been together for 42 years prior to their marriage in 2007. When Spyer died, however, the federal government, acting under DOMA, required Windsor to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if her spouse had been of the opposite sex. ...

"Windsor won in the lower courts. Indeed, in the past couple of years, 10 courts, with judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional."